I was doing some research for marijuana legalization in Idaho when I came across this story in the Idaho Statesman.
It’s a deep dive by the Statesman into the booking records for arrests at the Ada County Jail.
Ada County is the home to the capital and largest city, Boise. The second-largest city in Idaho is Meridian, a suburb of Boise.
What the Statesman found when culling the marijuana arrest numbers is that Boise cops were twice as likely as their Meridian counterparts to use their discretion to cite someone for a marijuana crime, demanding their appearance later before a judge, rather than arrest the person and book them in the jail, where their fingerprints and mug shot are taken and they must scramble to either make bail or remain jailed until arraignment.
In explaining why Meridian cops are so eager to arrest pot smokers, Meridian Police Deputy Chief Tracy Basterrechea said his agency must look at quality-of-life issues when deciding on charges.
“We believe in enforcing the little things,” said Basterrechea. “Marijuana is illegal in this state. Bottom line. And we’re going to enforce those laws because we do believe that when you start to let those little things go, it starts to affect the quality of life in your city.”
Basterrechea harkens to the discredited “broken windows” theory of policing developed by criminologist George L. Kelling and political scientist James Q. Wilson in 1982 and espoused by none other than former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
In research published in the Annual Review of Criminology and in Social Science & Medicine, they have found that disorder in a neighborhood doesn’t cause people to break the law, commit more crimes, have a lower opinion of their neighborhoods, or participate in dangerous or unhealthy behavior.“Do Broken Windows Mean More Crime?” Northeastern University, 5/15/2019
Basterrechea’s thinly-veiled bigotry towards cannabis consumers notwithstanding, he does offer a stunningly honest take on the real reason why police officers like him want to keep marijuana illegal.
It makes police work so much easier!
Basterrechea offered the example of arrests earlier this month at a hotel, where police responded to a report of the odor of marijuana coming from a room. While searching the room, officers found multiple smoking devices, marijuana and methamphetamine. Police also found forged checks, multiple identification cards and stolen debit cards.“Using pot in Meridian? Compared to Boise, officers are twice as likely to take you to jail,” Idaho Statesman 2/2/2020
The three people arrested in that hotel room now face charges stemming from multiple burglaries, both local and out of state.
“The sole, No. 1 reason for us being there was a marijuana charge,” Basterrechea said, and the case added up to 11 charges for the three suspects.
In other words, if the trio of tweaking forgery thieves hadn’t smoked marijuana and if a hotel guest hadn’t complained, police couldn’t have used the magical incantation “I detect the strong odor of marijuana” to make those eleven charges stick.
Without that tell-tale smell, police would have had to investigate various burglaries and forgeries, interview victims, collect various clues, follow up on leads, coordinate with investigators in other states, gather warrants to track their movements and eavesdrop on their conversations, collect evidence of the crimes in progress, track down their location, get an arrest warrant, and properly apprehend the criminal suspects.
It’s rare that cops are so honest in explaining that they’re only enforcing marijuana laws because they’re on the books, they prejudicially believe marijuana smokers diminish quality of life, and they can’t catch real criminals as easily without busting all pot smokers.